Dear Dr. Barchas,
I have a beautiful long-haired Shepherd who, for some reason, continuously licks at his paws. He makes them sore enough that he limps on them. What can I put on them to ease the pain while they heal, and what can I do to stop him from licking and chewing them?
Owen Sound, ON, Canada
When dogs lick their feet, they are trying to scratch them. Since your dog is licking his feet, they probably itch. Your dog’s feet most likely itch because he has allergies.
Seasonal springtime allergies usually are caused by fleas and pollen. Your dog probably is allergic to both.
Of the two, fleas are by far the worse offenders. If there are are fleas in your area (and, unless you live at a very high elevation, there most likely are fleas in your area), the simplest and safest thing you can do to help your dog is use Advantage or Frontline regularly. If your pet is allergic to fleas, you probably won’t find fleas on him, because he will groom himself tirelessly until all of the fleas are removed. Nonetheless, he may suffer from a few flea bites before he can rid himself of the pests. Any time a pet has skin or ear problems, using flea control should be the first step.
As well, I suspect that your dog is suffering from pollen allergies. There are many strategies for dealing with this. Many dogs are allergic to grass pollen. Washing your dog’s feet with cold water after going for walks will remove some pollen, and may help the situation. Also, a number of medications are available for treating pollen allergies. However, they should be used only under veterinary supervision.
If your dog is limping, the allergies may have led to an infection in the skin of his feet. A mild course of antibiotics may help the situation.
Allergies and skin infections in pets are very uncomfortable. I recommend that you have a veterinarian assess your dog. Together, you can determine a course of action that can bring him relief.
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